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'Pitch Nights' to Offer Prizes for Outstanding Business Models
Michigan Ag Connection - 08/10/2018

Owners of recently established local businesses -- as well as people with entrepreneurial ideas to pursue in Northern Michigan -- will again have opportunities this fall to compete for monetary prizes to help further their goals.

"Pitch night" competitions are planned in each of the four counties -- Emmet, Charlevoix, Antrim and Cheboygan -- served by the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance. This regional economic alliance is cooperating with local-level entrepreneurial teams, made up of business and community leaders in each of the counties, to assemble the upcoming lineup of events.

During the county-level events, selected applicants will make brief verbal pitches for their business models before a panel of judges and other audience members, with cash prizes offered for outstanding competitors along with opportunities for in-kind business services and networking. Some top finishers at the county-level events will receive invitations to a regional-level competition organized by Northern Lakes, known as the "Grand Event."

Green Light East Jordan has the longest history of the local pitch nights. Launched in 2015, the annual event is geared toward competitors with new or proposed businesses near the "Breezeway" corridor -- running along county road C-48 from Boyne Falls through East Jordan and Ellsworth to Atwood. This year's event is scheduled for Oct. 10 at Castle Farms in Charlevoix, and will offer more than $10,000 in prizes -- with the exact amount to be based on fundraising results.

Green Light East Jordan includes a student business model competition, which is open to high-school and college-age students (ages 14-24) from around Northern Michigan. Along with business models, competitors in the student category also can enter inventions. In addition to the student prize, competitors in that category can also vie for the event's other monetary awards if their business plan fits the geographic criteria.

As a new offering this year, Green Light organizers will offer feedback to early applicants who submit their applications by Friday, Aug. 10, giving them potential opportunities to enhance their plans before the final entry deadline on Sept. 10.

"We are excited for this year," said Clif Porter, who works in real estate development in the East Jordan area and is part of the team organizing Green Light.

To be eligible for the Green Light competition, existing businesses can be no more than two years old -- with an incorporation date no earlier than Oct. 11, 2016. To apply, go to greenlightej.submittable.com. Other Green Light details -- such as how audience members can submit the needed RSVP for the Oct. 10 event -- will be available at www.facebook.com/GreenLightEastJordan.

A deli, a barley malting operation serving the brewing industry and a retail shop specializing in smoked meats and fish and other food items are examples of top-finishing competitors from past Green Light events.

"A lot of these (competitors) are businesses that have opened that are providing goods and services not available to the residents and visitors before," said East Jordan Area Chamber of Commerce President Mary Faculak, who is also involved with Green Light preparations.

For the first time, a local-level pitch night will take place in Emmet County this year. The Emmet Entrepreneur Challenge is planned for Oct. 24 at the Lyric Theatre in Harbor Springs. Entrants who have businesses up to two years old, or an idea for an enterprise that would operate in Emmet County, can apply for the opportunity to make a pitch for their model. More than $15,000 in prizes and in-kind services will be offered. As at Green Light East Jordan, the prize lineup will include a "people's choice" award based on audience voting.

"Mostly, we are of the belief that entrepreneurship in our region is a huge part of the small business economy and we want to create an entrepreneurial pipeline in our region where new startups feel that 'this is the place to be' to build a company," said Georgia Abbott, a business consultant who's part of the team organizing the Emmet Entrepreneur Challenge.

An application for the Emmet Entrepreneur Challenge is available online at www.northernlakes.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/General-Application-Emmet-1.pdf. The submission deadline is Sept. 15. Prospective competitors and audience members can find additional event details at www.facebook.com/emmetentrepreneurchallenge/.

High-ranking competitors from Green Light East Jordan and the Emmet Entrepreneur Challenge -- as well as those from the Antrim Pitch Night on Nov. 7 in Bellaire and the Invest Cheboygan County event on Nov. 1 in Cheboygan -- will secure opportunities to compete for thousands of dollars more in additional prize money at the regional Grand Event. This competition is planned for late November at the new Great Lakes Center for the Arts in Bay Harbor.

Numerous sponsors and partner organizations will work with Northern Lakes and the local entrepreneurial teams to present this year's pitch nights.

Of the 21 competitors making pitches at last year's local events in East Jordan and Cheboygan, Northern Lakes business attraction and growth specialist Hannah Sanderson noted that 20 now have a business in operation or are close to a launch for their enterprise.

"We're looking forward to seeing what comes from it for years to come," Abbott added.

Northern Lakes' website, which includes details about the pitch nights as well as other programs and services, can be found at www.northernlakes.net.

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